Thursday 26 July 2018

Still Going Doolally!

Jon's off to Wiltshire to play his music at WOMAD this weekend - so I am going up to London to stay with Liz and play with Rosie. But first, I shall be going here
The Imperial War Museum -  just a short walk from Elephant and Castle. I have to meet with someone from their donations department.
When I was helping Jim clear out his clutter before he moved [he continues to be so happy in his new home] I found a cardboard box in the bottom of a wardrobe. 
When I asked what it was, Jim said they were the letters he sent home, whilst in the Army [19645-47] His Dad had kept them in paper folders. He held out the rubbish sack "Chuck 'em, I don't want them any more"
I asked if I could look through them quickly. Wow! they were utterly fascinating. I told Jim they should be in a museum. He was dubious as to why anyone should want letters from a soldier in Deolali, sent to his parents in Brighton, written over 70 years ago. But he agreed that I should see if anybody else was interested.
I went on the IWM website, which is extremely helpful.
They politely inform you that they are offered hundreds of items of militaria, and it may take a few months before your email even gets a reply. Furthermore, for obvious reasons, they cannot guarantee to accept anything. But there is a well laid out form to fill in, where you can give basic information, add a photo or two etc. 
I sent off the form. With a matter of days, they replied!

Such a kind email - yes they were interested, and may even consider coming to interview Gunner Smith [!!] for their Oral History Unit. I asked that they wait till he was settled in his new home, and because I knew I would be in London this week, I offered to bring these documents in person.
Letters, photographs, and a diary telling the amazing story of his two years in India.
Just an ordinary chap describing a soldier's life to his Mum - but  letters are so well written. Not just their legibility [beautiful cursive handwriting] but also their content.
"I saw a mongoose. Until I came to India, I thought a mongoose was a sort of bird- but it's more like a ferret"
"This is a picture of a rickshaw"
Britain was still on ration - so Jim was pleased to hear the family had obtained enough currants to make a Christmas pudding - he wished he was there to share it with them, the troop were having to make do with tinned pus from Oz.
He talks of his disappointment when the trip to the Taj Mahal was cancelled [its OK, he got there later, he told me, and sat "exactly where Princess Di sat"]
Jim is understandably quite thrilled at the IWM's interest. I am so hoping the IWM considers these worthy of their archives [if not, Jim says I may keep them]
I will keep you posted.
Liz says London is unbearably hot - Doolally Tap [Indian fever] may be on the cards this weekend...


  1. If the IWM doesn't want them his old regiment may be interested. Even regiments which have been merged have museums and archives.

  2. I do hope they want them - what a fabulous find!
    And I was in London last week, I survived mostly by drinking lots of water and keeping some damp cloths in a plastic bag to put round my neck, refreshing them when I got a cold drink by popping a couple of ice cubes in the bag!

  3. Oh I am SO glad for Jim that they are interested!!!! These all sound SO interesting and would be sad to throw them away!
    Could you possibly take pictures of them and upload them to this blog so if anyone was interested to read them or find some first hand accounts of this time would be able to access them?

  4. I think Jim was being a bit hard on the Aussie pudding - unless that was a typo...


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